Driving in Dubai: Is it Safe to Drive Around the UAE?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.

For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.

Intercity highways in the UAE have unmarked speed bumps, shifting sands and sometimes, camels. Find out how to not collide with a camel (or another driver) with our tips on safe driving in the UAE.

On a wild desert safari in the sand dunes of the UAE Photo © Getty Images/visual7

Driving in the UAE – is it safe?

Be aware of the local laws before you go to the UAE, and always abide by the rules.

World Health Organization statistics suggest the UAE is neither the safest or the most dangerous place to drive. On average, 18 people in every 100,000 die on the roads each year, compared to 3 in the UK and 12 in the US, but consierably lower than numbers from India (22) and Venezuela (33).

Visitors to the UAE can drive as long as they have an international drivers license. You can hire a car if you are 21 or older.

Like most countries, seat belts are mandatory in cars in the UAE, talking on a mobile phone while driving is illegal, as is drinking and driving. The UAE has a zero limit for intoxication, and the penalties for driving under the influence of any alcohol at all can be severe. If you are arrested for drink driving, you can be sent to jail for many days while awaiting a court hearing. The penalty can be heavy fines and in a worst case scenario, imprisonment. For Muslims, even those of non-UAE origin, it can be worse. 

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, and there are variable speed limits. residential roads have a speed limit of between 15 and 25mph (25-40km/h). Speed limits on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain (E22) and Sheikh Zayed (E11) highways have limits of up to 100km/h (62mph)

While local drivers often speed, drive too close to other cars, use the wrong speeds for the wrong lanes and dangerously change lanes, don't join them. There are speed cameras everywhere.

Local drivers will often flash their lights at cars in front to indicate they want them to move out of the way. Road rage, even rude gestures such as the middle finger salute and swearing, actually can attract significant penalties. So be careful to remain calm at all times.

Look out for lanimals on the road including  goats and camels.

If you plan on driving in the desert, camels become a bigger problem. You should make sure that you have a well-maintained, four-wheel drive vehicle, adequate water, and a mobile phone with sufficient reception if you do plan on driving in the desert.

Pedestrians should take great care in the UAE as 25% of road fatalities are pedestrians. A pedestrian crossing is no guarantee that a driver will slow down, nor is a pedestrian on the road a guarantee that a driver will change their course or speed at all. Think what you read above about drivers in the UAE not really being aware that other cars exist, and double that theory for pedestrians.

Despite all of this (or perhaps because of this) road laws in the UAE are quite comprehensive. If you are involved in an accident you must leave the vehicle exactly where it is, even if that's in the middle of the road. Dubai is an exception, where intense traffic means that this would be a major road hazard.

If someone is injured in an accident, the person that caused the accident goes immediately to jail until the injured person is out of hospital. Should someone die in an accident, the person that caused the accident is liable for a US $55,000 dollar fine, called "Daiya" as compensation for the death.

Even minor accidents can involve lengthy litigation where the drivers are prevented from leaving the country, so be very careful when and how you drive, even if no one else is.

You cannot turn right at a red light unless there is a yield sign. Parking is prohibited where the curb is painted yellow and black.

In an emergency call 112.

Get a travel insurance quote for United Arab Emirates

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • guy that lives in dubai said

    true uae driving is the worst!

  • Leo said

    I have an experience of actually obtaining my driver's license here in UAE... :)

    I like to recall words of my driving instructor when we got out for real-life drive lesson in Mussafah (industrial area near Abu Dhabi): "Hey! Go crazy, forget speed limit! See - everybody goes crazy!"

    You are right, best tactics is to expect any of the surronding cars to "go crazy" any time.
    Also, sticking strictly to speed limit is dangerous on highways; going with the surrounding traffic's speed and keeping distance will bring you home in one piece, mostly.

    My experience shows that most dangerous are taxies, mini buses and any car with over-tinted windows :)

    Welcome to UAE!

  • Stanley said

    Agree with the authors opinion - UAE is a hard country for driving.
    Nevertheless, it's still worth it.
    Car rental is definitely not the worst option for travelling in UAE due to low prices for fuel and high prices for taxi (+a lot of taxi scammers).
    I've tried hiring a car during my trip to Abu Dhabi two years ago.
    So, there are few drawbacks self-driving in UAE in case you don't have enough driving experience (dense traffic and very strict driving laws for tourists)

    Nevertheless, everything was OK during my journey :)
    In case you want to save some extra money, it is convenient to use car rental comparison services like https://rental24h.com/uae to pick up the best car rental offer

  • David from travelscams.org said

    Great article, thanks for the tips! With pristine sandy beaches, blue seas, palm trees and cosmopolitan cities, UAE is a dream to visit. However, with the rise of tourism, cases of tourist targeted scams and crime have risen as well http://travelscams.org/middle-east/common-tourist-scams-uae/

    Do be wary of the spilled liquid/spit scam, pickpockets, woman with sick child, travelling salesman scam, man with injury, out of petrol sob story, fake goods/jewellery, unofficial taxis, rogue taxis, door knocking scam, fake police and many more!

  • Dia said

    Every one has its own opinion on driving and I respect.
    Few difference are there in driving rules and culture on the road comparing to USA.
    But if you are true "Deutsche" and driven on Autobahn you will enjoy here.
    If you are from UK or Australia its gonna be hard and bitter (coz of driving side and speed)!!!
    My view, do not drive on extreme left lane (as we treat it as Autobahn), go with the flow / pace rather than sticking to speed limit (which is confusing most of time).
    On the highways the radar tolerance is +20KPH and on few road is +40KPH above the speed limit of 120 KPH, (which is no where in USA , UK, Australia or EU).
    Also it is recommended to rent a high-end car as they are more stable on road under given climatic conditions ....... a very basic car is Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima or Honda Accord.
    In case of accident call 999 and stay calm. Local culture is to ask the health of the other driver and be polite and gentle. The police will decide the rest and issue relevant paper which is very important. But in no condition leave the site of accident or try to move the vehicle unless told by the Police officer.
    Welcome to our beautiful roads (best across the world in terms of Engineering specification) with best cars in the world.

  • M said

    You probably need to understand that exiting roundabout from inside lane is mandatory in UAE. It is the law, just like in UK, Sweden and many other parts of the world

Add a Comment